Tilapia, also sometimes referred to as St. Peter’s fish, is a common name for a family of fish encompassing about a hundred different species from the family of Cichlidae. It is one of the most consumed types of seafood out there and its popularity amongst consumers has caused a lot of debate trying to answer if tilapia is good for you and your health. This article will try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about positive and negative effects of tilapia as a part of your diet. One of the most prominent characteristics of the tilapia fish is its mild taste, which makes it appealing to those who do not enjoy a more traditional “fishy” flavor. From a nutritionist point of view, it is also a great source of protein.
According to Lizz Knap of Mayo Health Clinic System, one 4-ounce serving contains about half of daily recommended protein intake. Tilapia is usually also low in fat, which makes it a good choice to include it as a part of a healthy diet. Since it is fish that does not quite taste like fish and yet has all other benefits of the fish, like containing omega-3 acids, it certainly has a place in your kitchen and on your dining table. Being rich in protein and also containing some omega-3, tilapia represents an interesting combination, which earned a name of “aquatic chicken”.
Is Tilapia Good Or Bad For You?
Tilapia Farming Causes Concerns
Although tilapia’s health benefits cannot be denied, what causes the most concern amongst nutritionists and other relevant authorities are the way the fish is being farmed for consumption. It’s popularity has resulted in an increased market demand which, in turn, led those who own the tilapia farms to look for ways to produce more in the shortest time possible. This is especially true for the less regulated countries in Asia, especially China.
According to numerous reports, tilapia farms in Asia are often overcrowded, the fish is being pumped full of antibiotics and fed with low-quality food which helps it grow, but often results in unhealthy fish that can actually cause harm to your health.
Tilapia raised in Latin America is of somewhat higher quality, but it still does not quite comply with the regulations in the United States or Canada. Despite all this, tilapia imported from China is readily available at most stores in the States and, naturally, it is very cheap. All this begs a question:
Is Tilapia Bad For You?
According to some researchers, eating tilapia can actually be bad for your health. Some researches even went as far as to say “it was worse than eating bacon”. Since we are all more or less aware that both doctors and nutritionists often suggest we should include fish as a part of our diet, how is it possible that tilapia can be “worse than bacon”?
The answer to such statement can be found exactly in a way that the fish is being raised and fed. While naturally grown tilapia does not live in a crowded space and feed mostly on algae and other fish, farmed tilapia, as mentioned, often does not enjoy such benefits.
Poorly fed tilapia does not abound in all-important omega-3 acids, which help blood pressure reduction and reduce the risk of certain inflammatory conditions, amongst other things. Instead, it often happens that there are higher levels of omega-6 acids found in farmed tilapia.
Although omega-6 acids also help with blood cholesterol levels, they also have a number of adverse effects, as they can be inflammatory and play a role in blood clotting. It is especially these elevated omega-6 levels that cause concerns and debates about tilapia consumption. It is important to note that omega-6 alone are not unhealthy, but when fatty acid ratio becomes unbalanced, health problems can arise.
There are also indications that the fish grown in less regulated countries is being pumped full of hormones to make them grow bigger faster. Although scientists do not agree on this topic, some of them claim that these hormones can actually accumulate in the liver and cause long-term adverse impacts on people’s health.
On top of all this, improper farming is also a cause for environmental concerns, as these overcrowded, often chemically “enhanced” farms, pollute the lakes in which the fish cages are situated. Although it may not seem like any individual’s problem per se, pollution on a large scale driven by a desire to produce more is clearly not a good thing.
In Nicaragua, for example, tilapia farming has been an issue for a while now. Lake Nicaragua, which is listed as a national treasure, has been polluted by the feces from a large farm situated in that lake. This pollution has caused disappearing of weaker, less resilient fish species from the lake.
To Tilapia Or Not To Tilapia?
With all this information, it becomes clear that the question is tilapia good or bad for you is really worth some serious consideration. It being one of the most available types of seafood out there, you as a consumer should know what you are getting into, so to speak.
The truth is that there is probably no reason to completely avoid tilapia in your diet. All the benefits mentioned are there and the fact that you can get to it easily and with no great expense is certainly appealing.
What you should pay attention to is the origin of the fish you are buying, but this stands true for the majority of your food. Tilapia raised in the States and Canada should generally be much healthier and there is not a real reason to avoid it. As for that imported from Asia and Latin America, although we cannot be certain how true some of the allegations are, it is best to use buyer beware policy and exercise a healthy dose of caution. Finding out about the origin of your tilapia should not represent too much of a challenge as long as you understand it is really important to know.
Images used under creative commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Image One by Erik Instead – https://www.flickr.com/photos/aneswede/6775561028/
Image Two by Happy Krissy – https://www.flickr.com/photos/53503060@N06/7002784017/
Image Three by Rool Paap – https://www.flickr.com/photos/roolrool/4427343173/